Jan. 7, 2003
What's on Tap: The No. 10 University of Arizona women's gymnastics team opens the 2003 season on Saturday, Jan. 11 by taking on the No. 11 University of Minnesota Golden Gophers in Minneapolis, Minn. The meet is set to start at 7 p.m. (CST) in Minnesota's Sports Pavilion.
The Rankings: Arizona is the 10th ranked team in the 2003 Preseason Coaches Poll. The Wildcats finished the 2002 season ranked No. 11, after finishing 11th at the 2002 NCAA National Championships. Complete rankings can be viewed at www.troester.com.
Arizona Head Coach Bill Ryden... begins his fifth season at the helm of the Arizona gymnastics program and holds a school and career record of 49-64-1. Ryden leads Arizona into 2003 after making his first appearance as a head coach at a NCAA Championship (2002), the program's first appearance since 1996. In 2002, Ryden earned Pac-10 Conference Coach of the Year honors as well as South Central Regional Coach of the Year honors, becoming the first head coach in Arizona history to have earned Regional Coach of the year honors. He also led Arizona to a No. 11 national finish and a 19-11 overall record in 2002.
About the Gophers: The Minnesota Golden Gophers enter the 2003 season right behind Arizona in the preseason rankings at No. 11. Last season, Minnesota finished the season with a 13-5 overall record after placing ninth at the 2002 NCAA Championships. The Gophers return eight gymnasts including one All-American from last year's squad. Co-head coaches Jim Stephenson (Iowa State '76) and Meg Stephenson (Iowa State '81) enter their sixth season together at the helm of the Minnesota program and hold a record of 73-48-1 as co-head coaches.
Last Season: The Wildcats and Gophers hooked up last season on March 14 in McKale Center as Minnesota defeated Arizona in a quadrangular meet, 196.850-196.125. Arizona's mark of 196.125 was its best home mark of the 2002 season. Arizona and Minnesota were also participants in last year's NCAA Championships in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Although Arizona and Minnesota did not compete in the same opening session of the championships, the Gophers posted a score of 195.700 to place ninth, while Arizona posted a mark of 194.975 to place 11th at the 2002 NCAA Championships.
Almost Perfect: Arizona went a near perfect 7-1 at home in 2002. The only thing standing in the way of a perfect home record for Arizona was its defeat to Minnesota on March 14. Although Arizona finished second in its final home meet of the 2002 regular season to the Gophers (196.850-196.125), the Wildcats posted four scores that rank on Arizona's all-time top-10 list. Arizona's meet score of 196.125 tied for sixth all-time, its mark of 49.325 on vault ranks sixth all-time, its mark 49.225 on beam ranks second and the Wildcat's score of 49.575 on floor last year against Minnesota stands as the best floor mark in team history.
Over the Hill: They say it's all down hill once you hit 50, but that doesn't apply to Bill Ryden's career as a gymnastics head coach. With a win on Saturday, Ryden can earn his 50th career victory as a collegiate gymnastics head coach. Ryden holds a career record of 49-64-1 going into Saturday's meet.
Welcome Home: For sophomore Katie Johnson, Saturday's meet against Minnesota will be more then the 2003 season-opener. It will be her homecoming. Johnson, the 2002 Pac-10 Freshman of the Year, and a 2002 All-Pac-10 competitor on floor is a native of Moorhead, Minn. and will compete in her home state for the first time as an Arizona Wildcat.
Stacked Pac: The Pacific-10 Conference will again be one of the toughest conferences in the nation in 2003. Six of the Pac-10's seven teams were ranked in the Preseason Coaches Poll. UCLA tops the list at No. 1, Stanford is ranked seventh followed by Arizona at No. 10, Oregon State is ranked No. 13, Arizona State is ranked 15th and Washington is ranked 17th respectively.
Up Next: The Wildcats will return from Minnesota to host the Oregon State Beavers on Friday, Jan. 17 at 7:30 p.m. (MST) in McKale Center. The meet will be Arizona's first home meet of the season and will serve as the Wildcats' Pac-10 season-opener.
Arizona's 2003 Season Outlook:
The University of Arizona women's gymnastics team enjoyed one of its most successful seasons in school history last year in 2002. With a team composed mainly of underclassmen, Arizona jumped back among the collegiate gymnastic elite by earning a second-place finish at the Pac-10 Championship, its 16th consecutive postseason appearance and its first trip to the NCAA National Championships since 1996. The 2002 season, however, is over. Arizona enters the 2003 season ready to prove itself as one of the top programs in the nation. The Wildcats enter 2003 ready to earn respect.
"For our team, the 2002 National Championships are done," head coach Bill Ryden said. "That was last year. We are back to being nobodies. We look at our team training and we know we have to work hard, we have to earn respect."
With 13 returning letterwinners, including three All-Pac-10 gymnasts, the defending Co-Pac-10 beam champion and three freshman newcomers, Arizona will have a legitimate shot at earning its 17th postseason appearance and its second consecutive berth to the National Championships.
"Our team is always looking towards getting to the next level," Ryden said. "This team definitely has the talent to do so. We believe that our program can be a continual top program in the country. We have no doubts that we can do that on a year-to-year basis. But every year is a fight."
Although the Wildcats lost senior Randi Liljenquist, one of the top gymnasts in school history, Arizona returns a group of young, talented and experienced gymnasts who accounted for 78 percent of the teams scoring last season. Talent and experience are two assets Arizona will count on this season to make up for its lack of roster depth. Returning for her fourth and final season as Arizona's lone senior, captain Nikki Beyschau is coming off a solid junior campaign where she was a key gymnast in Arizona's vault and bars lineups.
Junior Andi McCabe, 2002 All-Pac-10 selection on vault, sophomore Katie Johnson, the Pac-10 Co-Freshman of the Year and sophomore Monica Bisordi, 2002 All-Pac-10 selection on beam and in the all-around will all have key roles in the Arizona lineup.
"The more people who have experience, the better we will be," Ryden said. "Last year, the team as a whole hit a wall toward the beginning of March because many of our gymnasts weren't used to competing that much. This year, our team knows what to expect and will be ready for the challenge."
Arizona's road towards respect will run into a tough schedule along the way, which includes non-conference match-ups with perennial top-25 schools Utah, Oklahoma, Minnesota, BYU and Denver. Finishing second at the Pac-10 Championships last season, The Wildcats will face an always difficult Pac-10 schedule again in 2003.
"We have an amazingly hard schedule to face this year," Ryden said. "Every team we will face this year will be a top team in the nation. But it's not about who you face each week, it's about how every team does in the nation, which definitely cuts our work out for us."
Arizona will be tested early on the road, opening the 2003 season at Minnesota. Arizona will host five meets in McKale Center, where the Wildcats finished with a home record of 7-1 in 2002.
"Our team stepped up to the challenge last year," Ryden said. "Our team takes a lot of pride on victories on the floor. We know victories don't get you a national championship. But the pride of that night, the pride of walking off the floor as victors is something this team really enjoys. Our gymnasts want to go out and put on a show and show everyone how good they are."
The Senior Class
Arizona will look for leadership in lone senior Nikki Beyschau. Named team captain, Beyschau is by far the team?s most experienced and seasoned veteran. Entering her fourth year with the Wildcats, Beyschau will be counted on to make an impact in the line up on vault and on bars. Last season, Beyschau competed in every meet during the season and had eight top-five finishes, including a vault title at Oklahoma where she posted a career-high mark of 9.950, which tied the No. 3 mark on the all-time top-10 performers' list.
"Nikki brings a world of experience, the ability to work through adversity and is able to maintain her goals and remain driven," Ryden said. "Things have not been easy for Nikki. She has come through a lot of adversity and is a tough gymnast. She has been dealt a lot of short hands and has been able to come through them. No matter what, she is a gymnast who will keep going."
The Junior Class
Arizona will rely on its junior class for added depth as the season progresses on. Although the junior class has been reduced to five, compared to eight gymnasts in last year's sophomore class, the juniors provide much- needed leadership and experience for this team.
Coming off a strong sophomore year, junior Andi McCabe will again be a leading force for the Wildcats on vault, bars and floor. Last season, McCabe was named to the 2002 All-Pac-10 Conference team on vault, posting 14 top-five finishes during the regular season, including six vault titles and a career-high 9.975 on vault, which is the No. 2 mark on the all-time top-10 performers' list. She also finished the regular season ranked No. 4 in the nation on vault.
Junior Sheehan Lemley is also returning from a solid sophomore year. Last season, Lemley matured as a collegiate gymnast for Arizona by breaking into the beam and bars lineups. Lemley was one of the most consistent performers on beam and bars for the Wildcats last year, posting two top-five finishes. This year, Lemley also will be expected to take on a leadership role for Arizona as one of the team's co-captains.
Meagan Killpack returns to the Wildcat lineup after missing 2002 with an ACL injury. Killpack has worked hard to recover from her injury and have a chance to break into the lineup for Arizona in 2003. Killpack will provide much-needed depth for the Wildcats on bars.
Juniors Amanda Goins and Sarah Galecki continue to work hard and are looking for a chance to break into the regular season lineup. Each gymnast provides a great work ethic in the gym and is a consummate worker for the Arizona program. Goins will provide depth for the Wildcats on vault and on floor and Galecki will provide depth with routines on bars and floor.
"The junior class is a talented group that has been a little hot and cold since they have joined the program," Ryden said. "Andi McCabe had a great year last year and has looked good in the gym. Sheehan started to blossom last year, and we are looking for her to come into her own this season. Meagan is hoping to make a comeback this year and can definitely have an impact in our lineup this year. Sarah and Amanda are all redefining their skills in hopes of breaking into the lineup."
The Sophomore Class
Returning for a second season of action as collegiate gymnasts, the sophomore class will look to continue making its mark in the Arizona history books. Last season as freshmen, this group of gymnasts broke into the lineup and made an immediate impact on the program's success. With one season behind them, the Wildcat sophomores will enter 2003 as a talented and experienced group ready to make its mark on the national level.
Coming off one of the most impressive freshman campaigns in Arizona history, sophomore Katie Johnson will take on a leadership role for the Wildcats as a team co-Captain. In 2002, Johnson earned Pac-10 Freshman of the Year honors, was named to the All-Pac-10 team on floor and was named Pac-10 Gymnast of the Week (Jan. 29, 2002). With a year of experience, Johnson will continue to carry the load for the Wildcats on vault, beam and floor.
Also returning to the Wildcat lineup after an amazing freshman year is sophomore Monica Bisordi. Last season, Bisordi joined senior Randi Liljenquist as one of only two all-around performers for the Wildcats. Bisordi was named to the 2002 All-Pac-10 team on beam and in the all-around, tallying 32 top-five finishes, including two beam titles and two all-around titles. Bisordi enters 2003 as one of the Wildcats' leading performers in all four events and will look to continue here assault on the Arizona record books.
Entering 2003 as the defending Pac-10 Co-Beam Champion, sophomore Stevie Fanning will continue her success as a Wildcat. Competing for the Wildcats fresh out of high school at the age of 17, Fanning will benefit from a year's experience coming into her sophomore season, as she looks to make an impact for Arizona in all four events. Last year, Fanning posted five top-five finishes, including two beam titles and a bars title.
Returning to the Arizona lineup after proving to be one of the Wildcats' most consistent gymnasts is sophomore Jamie Schell. In 2002, Schell tallied eight top-five finishes, including a vault title. Her career-high 9.900 on vault is also the No. 9 mark on the all-time top-10 list. Schell enters 2003 as a leading force for the Wildcats on vault, beam and floor.
In her first year with Arizona, sophomore Jamie Duce emerged as one of the most consistent bar workers for the Wildcats. Last year, Duce posted five top-five finishes for the Wildcats, including a bars title. Duce will provide much needed depth for Arizona on beam and floor and is one of Arizona's top returnees on bars.
Also returning to the Arizona lineup is sophomore Kristine Harper. In her freshman campaign, Harper was a solid beam performer who also made appearances on floor throughout the season. Considered one of the hardest workers on the team, Harper has improved her skills even more and is ready to make an impact for Arizona in 2003.
"All our sophomores are looking good," Ryden said. "Jamie Duce and Jamie Schell are working on a lot of new skills. Kristine looks better than ever. Monica had a fantastic freshman campaign, and we are looking for her to continue her consistent form. Stevie has improved significantly, and Katie is looking to up all of her routines as well and is adding difficulty on events she is already good at."
The Freshman Class
The Arizona coaching staff has again brought in a strong freshman class for 2003. Entering their first seasons with the program are freshmen Erin Muirhead, Abby Pearson and Jessamyn Salter. Each gymnast brings a wealth of amateur experience to Arizona, all of who are ready to make an immediate impact.
"All of our freshmen are all capable of making impacts in our lineup," Ryden said. "Each gymnast has the potential to be all-arounders for this team. They are all fantastic tumblers, they can all vault, and they can all do beam. They are also working hard to make contributions on bars."
According to Head Coach Bill Ryden
"Our gymnasts have had to readjust to the vault table. We have a lot of conventional vaulters who have had to change their vaults to a backwards entry. Last year we had six 10.0 start values on vault. We might not do that this year, but I think we will still have a strong vault lineup."
"We are still trying to figure out our lineup on bars. Some of last year's gymnasts have improved on bars. We lost two outstanding bar workers in Randi Liljenquist and Nicci Filchner from last year, so some people are going to have to step up. Bars can be a strong event for us, but our goal for bars is to be competitive with every team and let our other events take care of business."
"We have a lot of capable beam workers on our team. We lost one routine from last year, so we are not too worried about how we will perform. Our gymnasts really worked hard on beam last year and I see that continuing for us into this season. Beam is the event that saved our life at Regionals and gave us a berth to the Championships, so our gymnasts know how important this event is."
"Floor is the least of our worries. We have some great floor routines returning and all our freshmen can do floor as well. I expect all of our gymnasts to work hard and compete for a spot in the floor lineup. We put up some great numbers on floor last season and this team is defiantly capable of doing the same."
"All-around is always a competitive event. Last year, Monica Bisordi came in and did a wonderful job for us in each event. We lost one of the best all-around gymnasts we have ever had in Randi Liljenquist, but I expect many of our gymnasts to step up and take a shot at the all-around."